Grandparents commended for being ‘foul-weather’ friends of the Church

Over 10,000 grandparents, grandfathers and their families from all over Ireland converged on Knock Shrine, Co. Mayo, today (SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12TH) to celebrate their Catholic faith – and they were commended for being ‘foul-weather friends’ of the Church.

The fourth annual National Grandparents Pilgrimage was once a huge success, and among the singers at the Mass was 13 year-old Ireland’s Got Talent winner Chloe Coyle.

“These are difficult times for people of faith. We have seen a church we love rocked by scandal after scandal. It is difficult to under-estimate the pain that the older generation have suffered,” said keynote speaker Breda O’Brien, the respected columnist and commentator on Catholic topics. The event had a special significance for her, as her father passed away just last week, depriving her children of a much-loved grandfather.

She added: “We have been told that the best way to bring about change is to walk away, even temporarily. We are all familiar with the concept of a fair-weather friend, one who is around when the going is good.

“Grandparents are foul-weather friends who turn up when the going is tough, and get stuck in and do what they can. The church needs foul weather friends now, who can talk sense and bring about reform, but through love, not despair.”

Breda emphasised that grandparents have a crucial role in an era when “massive changes have occurred in family form and family breakdown.” Quoting 2009 research by the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College, she said: “The total number of people who have experienced marriage breakdown increased from 40,000 to just under 200,000 in the two decades between 1986 and 2006.”

She added: “Grandparents are the ones who keep the wheels on the wagon, who provide an anchor for bruised and hurting adult children and grandchildren, and provide a source of support and stability to people whose world has fallen apart.

“None of this, of course, is unrelated to the fact that for many grandparents, faith is an anchor. It allows them to be the centre of stability, because they are secured by something deeper than themselves.”

Chief Celebrant for the event was Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore.

“This is the largest grandparents pilgrimage in the world. This pilgrimage has been the catalyst for grandparents pilgrimages in America, Tanzania, Germany, Australia, and Argentina. We have also founded a number of Catholic Grandparents Association branches in various parts of the country,” said Catherine Wiley, founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association.

More details on the Pilgrimage can be found on

About the National Grandparents Pilgrimage

  • Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam is Patron
  • The National Grandparents Pilgrimage was established by Grandmother Catherine Wiley in 2007.
  • The aim of the National Grandparents Pilgrimage is to celebrate the important role grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren.
  • In 2009, over 14,000 people attended the Pilgrimage, which also coincided with the formation of the Catholic Grandparents Association
  • Further information on the National Grandparents Pilgrimage is available on
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